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When service tax serves no purpose
April, 15th 2013

I left office later than usual, and decided to pick up my dinner from a fast food outlet along the way.

The place was packed with people, and while I waited behind three or four people at one counter, I saw a man sneak past everyone, say something to the cashier, hand over money, and take his food.

A couple of people grumbled but that was all. When it was my turn, I placed my order and then asked the cashier why he had allowed someone to cut through the queue.

“Oh, that man has parked his car in a No Parking zone outside, so I helped him out,” came the nonchalant reply, accompanied by a defiant stare.

“So, the rest of us should also park our cars in No Parking zones to be served? I have an auto waiting for me – does that give me the right to push past other people?” I retorted.

“You are talking as if I gave him some privileges because he is my relative. What’s the big deal?” the cashier replied aggressively

A few minutes later, when I asked for the manager, he came forward. But until I asked for him, he didn’t bother to tell off his staff for being rude to a customer.

Anyway, he apologised and said he would take necessary action – and took down my phone number with the promise of informing me about it as well.

I have yet to receive the promised phone call.

This is not about one bad incident — in several restaurants, I have seen waiters hover around but pretend not to notice an outstretched hand, or get offended when you ask them how much longer it will be before you are served

While some of you might not like comparisons, I have to point out that standards of service in other countries are far higher, and far more professional. Never in Canada, Singapore, Thailand or the US – countries I have lived in or visited – have I seen this lack of respect for customers or dismal standards of service. Maybe their “hello” or “thank you” sounds rehearsed or lifeless, but they do the job they have been hired for.

The reason such lapses continue here is because we, as customers, don’t demand what is due to us. Remember the service tax that is added to your bill? That is the price you pay for the “service” element – apart from the main bill, which is the amount you pay for the food per se. And so long as customers refuse to demand their rights, businesses will never realise the need to toe the line.

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